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Doctor Strange (3D)


Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelson, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Benjamin Bratt, Chris Hemsworth, Scott Adkins

Director: Scott Derrickson

In terms of mind-bending special effects, this might be the cleverest Marvel Studios film yet. Cumberbatch, complete with growly American accent, gives a commanding performance in the title role, as a brilliant but arrogant surgeon who is driving his supercharged car much too fast along a cliff road when an X-ray flashed to his on-board computer leads to a horrendous accident (actually the crash is a bit too devastating: you get the feeling that no one could have survived it).

At any rate, the crash deprives him of the use of his now trembling hands. Neither surgeon (and old flame) McAdams nor anyone else can put this particular Humpty Dumpty back together again.

So Strange, following a conversation with a man (Bratt) who has achieved the kind of miracle recovery he himself needs, heads for Kathmandu in Nepal. Here the meets the Special One (it's Swinton not Mourinho), a bald-headed Ancient who overcomes his doubts and teaches him the magic powers of the Sorcerers. 'Forget everything you think you know,' she tells Strange. It's a familiar line, but what follows is far from familiar, stretching the magic of cinema CGI to new limits.

'Whereas the Avengers protect the world against physical threats,' Swinton explains, 'the Sorcerers protect the world against more mystical evil'. And, of course, evil does indeed rear its head in the shape of a scorch-eyed Mikkelson, an ex-student of Swinton's but now in thrall to some spatial deity determined to wipe the Sorcerers from the face of the earth.

Mystic Meg, or whatever she was called, does not provide Swinton with her finest hour, but there's stouter support from elsewhere and the franchise is lucky to have Cumberbatch aboard, the actor making the most of the movie's sly vein of humour.

Following the explosively psychedelic finale, with which the director perhaps had more fun than the audience, there's a scene after the main credits. And that's not all folks - there's another, darker one, after the last of the credits has gone.

David Quinlan

USA 2016. UK Distributor: Disney (Marvel). Technicolor.
115 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 24 Oct 2016